Track attack

Damo becomes an apex predator

DAMION SMY

HOP in. Yes, this is the Wheels long-term Clubsport R8. Why are we at this Winton track day? HSV says the Clubbie – complete with its chequered flag badges – is at home on the track just as much as on the road.

So why not?

Wipers on because it’s cold and wet; I wish this thing had heated seats. All we’ve done to prep it for today is change the oil and check the tyre pressures.

Look at the patchwork of motoring’s finest ahead of us. See that hot-rod? What about the bloke in the Hyundai Excel, complete with a roll-cage, race suit and HANS device?

Catch the green Datsun Stanza. Let’s line up behind this S13 Nissan 180SX.

We’re up now. Out of the pits, onto the straight; how good does the Clubbie sound under full throttle! What a kick! First corner, and it’s super greasy. No wheelspin so far, and I’m being cautious with Performance mode on – you need to buy the GTS to get a ‘Track’ mode – but let’s be gentle tipping the nose in. Not too early on the power as we head over the start/finish line. What’s that ahead of us; a Hillman Hunter!

Two tight rights and the HSV holds on well, then gets up and goes in a straight line, paddleshifters clicking through the gears.

This long left-hander will separate the car’s brute force from my (lack of) driving talent; mid-corner speed’s still pretty good, with excellent roadholding, but what’s under the bonnet of that Hillman! Let’s tiptoe around the inside of it; I’m being very patient with the throttle because I know any temptation will kick that tail out, but it isn’t too twitchy surprisingly, and we have to drive this thing back to Melbourne today.

There’s not much body roll, and I can feel the car’s weight with the sudden change of direction through this quick right-hander.

I could do with narrower seats because I’m sliding about a bit. Still, turn-in is good, but this steering is a little vague.

Let’s tuck the nose in under that Volvo; we’re past it now. Next, a tight left: hard on the brakes – no fade, after repeated abuse – but how close is that Volvo we overtook...

Shit! is it going to stop? Better give it a wide birth… Phew, I’m glad I did, that thing would’ve T-boned us! Aah, the driver just gave us an apologetic wave.

Onto another small straight. Pouring on the power feels so good, but are we cheating with 340kW here? Nope. A flame-spitting Series III RX-7 charges at us. I’ll give him space as we’re no match for the lithe Mazda in the tight turns.

How much fun was that! Up for another?

The Clubbie certainly is. thi

DIGITAL DEBRIEF

Clubbie comes with an on-board data logger that covers 10 circuits, including Winton

Push to play

THE Clubsport R8 is thirsty at the best of times, but on track it drank like a fat kid at a school athletics carnival. So when ‘Fuel Warning’ came on, with time for a few more laps, we played chicken – and lost. Driving into town, the R8 came to a halt a few hundred metres from the servo. Completely my fault, I felt like Jamie Whincup at Bathurst last year. Pushing the white wonder along Benalla’s main street reminded me of Doug Chivas running dry in Brocky’s XU-1 in the ’73 race while leading...

HSV CLUBSPORT R8

Date acquired: March 2015 Price as tested: $79,365 This month: 3870km @ 16.0L/100km Overall: 7760km @ 14.9L/100km

APEX HUNTING

Use the free viewa app to see Damo cut loose at Winton.